Snap Appliance Snap Server 1100 Review

There is a fantastic simplicity to the Snap Server 1100. Setting up the Snap Server could hardly be any easier.
There is a fantastic simplicity to the Snap Server 1100. Setting up the Snap Server could hardly be any easier.
There is a fantastic simplicity to the Snap Server 1100. Setting up the Snap Server could hardly be any easier.

Highs

  • Quick setup
  • small footprint
  • excellent performance
  • ease of use

Lows

  • Relatively high price per GB
  • lack of gigabit Ethernet support
Home > Product Reviews > Hard Drive Reviews > Snap Appliance Snap Server 1100 Review

Summary

There is a fantastic simplicity to the Snap Server 1100. Small businesses and home users alike will appreciate the Snap Server’s easy installation, minimialistic exterior design and excellent performance.

Setting up the Snap Server could hardly be any easier and the system can quickly be configured with tight corporate security or a more relaxed level of security for a home-network.

Price may be the only limiting factor for some home users since at over $530 for an 80GB drive, there are certainly much cheaper solutions. However, the added security, backup features and ability to effortlessly transfer files between several operating systems will appeal to many users interested in protecting their data across a network. While the unit is more costly than other storage solutions the versatility will make up for it in many situations.

A recent announcement by Broadcom predicts heavy interest NAS from small businesses and home users with their NAS-on-chip which should significantly drive prices for these products down. Snap Appliance is on the cusp of this development and one of the few companies targeting the smaller users, but this will soon change.

Overview

 

With the increasing popularity of digital music, file sharing and digital photos, families and home computer users are hungry for more and more storage space. Disk storage is relatively inexpensive, but adding another drive to an existing computer is not always the easiest or safest way to back up and store data.

 

Enter the networked storage device. Several companies are offering storage solutions specifically designed to address these concerns for both home and small office users. The Snap Server 1100 by SnapAppliance is one such device.

 

This relatively small black box is an easy to configure file server that connects to your network and according to the company, can be serving up files less than five minutes after you pop open the box. Just plug the power in, connect the Ethernet cable and make a few configuration settings and you have 80 gigs of shared storage. The unit is instantly compatible with just about any network and any operating system out there and even features FTP and HTTP file access, making it ideal for the home or any small business.

 

According to SnapAppliance, the Snap Server 1100 is the most popular NAS (network attached storage) device on the market, with over 50,000 units sold.


The Snap Appliance Snap Server 1100 80GB NAS server.

Features and Benefits

 

SnapAppliance has gone with a minimalist approach to the Snap Server design. The front panel of the unit features four status LEDs – “System”, “Link”, “Net”, and “Disk” that flash during activity. On the back of the unit is a 10/100mbps Ethernet port, a port for the power plug and a reset switch and that’s it. With the size of the unit, we expected the power supply to be integrated but it is not – the unit is powered by an external power brick.

 

The size of the unit can be attributed to the fact that there is basically a computer inside the Snap Server. A Pentium 166 processor with 64MB of RAM powers the Snap Server and is what separates this from just a regular external storage drive.

 

A robust security scheme allows for various levels of usage. By default, the all users on the network have access to everything on the Snap Server. Just like other networks, you can define users and groups and determine what folders each have access to. The system allows you to use security settings already in place on your Windows domain or Novell NetWare bindery server. If you do not have a domain, you can set up users and groups within the Snap Server itself. The server also supports Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for transmission of encrypted data over TCP/IP.

 

Everything about the Snap Server can be managed through its Web-based administration console. The Web interface and support for Windows, Mac, UNIX NFS and Novell networks makes it accessible and configurable from almost any client with a Web browser and any type of network setup.

 

In addition to providing setup access through the Web, the Snap Server features a built-in Web and FTP server, allowing remote access to files. This access can be enabled or disabled on a folder-by-folder basis if necessary.

 

Lastly, another great feature of the Snap Server is that it can be connected to an APC UPS and be automatically shut down if on battery power. See the “specifications” page for detailed specs and features.

 

The pictures of the Snap Server 1100 may be a bit misleading in that the device may look bigger than it actually is. In reality, we were quite surprised at how small the device is. Actual dimensions are 5 inches wide, 3 inches high and 9 inches deep. Considering that an IDE hard drive is

Configuration and Setup

 

Setup and configuration of the Snap Server 1100 is just as easy as the company claims. In fact, from the time we plugged our unit in to the time we were able to access it on our network, only slightly more than three minutes had elapsed. It truly is that easy.

 

If you are running DHCP on your network, the Snap Server will automatically obtain an IP address once you turn it on. Then if you know the IP address of the server, you can access the Web-based administration tool by typing the IP address in your browser address bar. From there you can assign the Workgroup name for Windows networking and be able to access the server from your Network Neighborhood. By default, it is configured to be part of the Windows workgroup called “WORKGROUP” which is the default setting in Windows XP. Since our network runs DHCP and the workgroup is called “WORKGROUP” it was that easy.

 

If you are unsure of what IP address the Snap Server picked up or if you are using static IP addresses on your network, a configuration CD is included for both Mac and PC that allows you to access the Snap Server and assign an IP address. The program on the CD, which runs off the CD and is not installed on your computer, will broadcast signals out on your network to look for a Snap Server. Once it is found, it lets you know the IP address and will automatically launch your Web browser with the URL of your device. If you require a static IP address, you can assign one here also. After this is done, everything else can be configured via the Web interface, including changing the IP address again if it is ever required.


All administration options are accessible through a Web interface.

Evaluation

 

In our testing of the Snap Server 1100, we compared it to a more traditional type of external storage – a USB 2.0 hard drive. Both offer large capacity and ease of use, but the USB drive is a fraction of the cost. So the question at hand was: what advantages are provided for the extra cost? Both are small, light and hold a good amount of data.

 

First of all, there is no comparison in terms of ease of use if you have more than one computer on your network – and for the most part, only consumers with multiple computers on their network would probably consider the Snap Server. Although the USB hard drive works well with a connection to a single machine, the Snap is obviously better suited for a small network.

 

We were interested in benchmarking data transfers so we compared the Snap Server to the USB 2.0 hard drive by transferring large compressed files and timing the transfer. In all of our tests, the Snap Server transferred the file to and from our test computer several seconds faster than the USB connection. Transferring data to the Snap Server resulted in an average speed of about 47.67 mbps, slightly beating out our USB drive each time. Read speed was recorded at a whopping 76.29 mbps, right on par with the USB drive.

 

One of the things that make a file server like the Snap Server more attractive to a small network than an external hard drive is its ability to support all operating systems simultaneously.

 

If you have a small network, either at home or for a small business, you may require more than one operating system. The Snap can handle any OS from Windows, Mac, Linux and Novel. For example, if you have a Windows machine for most of your daily workload but like to edit large video files on a Mac, the Snap will greatly improve your productivity. You can easily create and modify your audio and video files on the Mac using the Snap for storage and then play the resultant files on your Windows PC. The flexibility of using the Snap will become more and more evident as you get into using the server.

 

Since the Snap has its own processor much of the overhead of file transfer and management is on the server not on your computer. This frees up a lot of processor and memory resources for the programs and processing on your computer. And while the Snap Server is basically a small computer, the cooling fans and drive activity is barely noticeable unless you are right on top of the device.

 

One concern we had was a lack of support for gigabit Ethernet. Hopefully, this will be addressed in future revisions as gigabit Ethernet and network storage becomes more popular in both home and office use.

 

For most operating systems you also have the addition of a much tighter security with the Snap Server, far over that of regular external hard drives. While most operating systems permit some level of control for file sharing, there is nothing like a full, dedicated file server to keep your files out of unauthorized hands. In the home this can mean your whole family can share the server but your children will not be able to access the financial files so important to your family.

Additional Provided Software

 

The Snap Server comes with a really nice piece of extra software, PowerQuest’s Data Keeper. This program, previously available with the excellent partition management program Partition Magic, automatically backs up any or all files on your hard drive. You set up what files you require for back up and Data Keeper monitors any changes made to the files, saving the old copy before it is over written. You can specify how many copies you want to keep, the duration of maintaining the back up files and the space you want to devote to this function. If you have ever made a change that completely ruined a file, and who among us haven’t, this utility lets you recover quickly and easy.

Since it is running in the background, the save functions are literally “set it and forget it.” Including this program just shows the commitment this company has to giving the most to their customers.

 

Conclusions

 

There is a fantastic simplicity to the Snap Server 1100. Small businesses and home users alike will appreciate the Snap Server’s easy installation, minimialistic exterior design and excellent performance.

 

Setting up the Snap Server could hardly be any easier and the system can quickly be configured with tight corporate security or a more relaxed level of security for a home-network.

 

Price may be the only limiting factor for some home users since at over $530 for an 80GB drive, there are certainly much cheaper solutions. However, the added security, backup features and ability to effortlessly transfer files between several operating systems will appeal to many users interested in protecting their data across a network. While the unit is more costly than other storage solutions the versatility will make up for it in many situations.

 

A recent announcement by Broadcom predicts heavy interest NAS from small businesses and home users with their NAS-on-chip which should significantly drive prices for these products down. Snap Appliance is on the cusp of this development and one of the few companies targeting the smaller users, but this will soon change.